by Bob Shively, Enerdynamics President and Lead Instructor
During the recent campaign season, it was rare to hear a candidate utter the words “climate change” or “greenhouse gasses.” Democrats didn’t want to open themselves up to accusations of planning to harm the economy, and Republicans didn’t want to be seen as apathetic about the future of our planet. Even when Superstorm Sandy hit and Bloomburg Business released its cover with the title “It’s Global Warming Stupid,” politicians were unwilling to take the bait. But now that the elections are past us, we are beginning to hear the words again.
On Dec. 3 I attended “An Evening with Bill Clinton,” and among the many topics he addressed, he spent as much time on global warming as any other. His comments included the observation that Washington, D.C., is the only major capital in the world where the existence of global warming is still in debate. His point? It is time to focus on the future, and part of that focus must be on how to reduce global warming. Interestingly, the Wall Street Journal recently reported that President Obama has three key domestic agendas he would like to further in the next four years:
- growing the economy
- reforming immigration law
- addressing global warming
Though not highly likely in the immediate future, there’s talk of a carbon tax bill. While that remains to be seen, there’s current legislation taking shape both at the state and at the federal levels aimed at combatting global warming. Most dramatic is in California which, barring a court challenge, will begin enforcing its Greenhouse Gas Cap and Trade program in 2013. But numerous other states have taken action to support movement to gas-fired generation, renewables, and energy efficiency as has the U.S. Department of Energy. Meanwhile the EPA is continuing with proposed new rules that make it tougher for coal units. On the transportation side, new automotive mileage standards set by the Obama Administration will significantly increase the efficiency of the U.S. vehicle fleet thus also reducing future emissions (see http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444327204577617352693933194.html).
According to a recent Huffington Post article, among the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases, only the U.S. and Germany have reduced greenhouse gas emissions over the last year. Of course, it’s not a problem the U.S. can solve alone considering the U.S. makes up only 16% of global emissions with rapidly growing China making up 28% (for a summary of various statistics summarizing the global issue see http://www.globalcarbonproject.org/carbonbudget/12/files/CarbonBudget2012.pdf ).
So what can we expect to see in 2013? Don’t look for comprehensive legislation from Washington or for new global agreements. Instead expect to see continued quiet incremental movement from various states and from ongoing policy implementation by the Obama Administration. And although it may be even more subtle, look for behind-the-scenes efforts to encourage China and others to rein in their explosive emission growth. As U.S. Energy Secretary Chu said in an interview with Wired Magazine in 2010, the key to fixing global warming lies in cooperation between the U.S. and China. I suspect this belief still underlies the Administration’s approach.
- Rich nations alone can’t halt global warming: report (terradaily.com)
- California faces carbon conundrum (sfgate.com)